WASHINGTON -- The Mets don't need a calendar to know they have entered the dog days.
A quick glance around the clubhouse is enough. Of the 25 players who broke camp with the team, only four have remained on the active roster throughout the season.
"That's it?" Mets manager Terry Collins said, revealing just how much his roster has been burned by attrition.
Yet in last night's 3-2 victory, each of the four hardiest Mets played a key role in holding off a Nationals team that is making a push for the postseason.
The group is composed of second baseman Daniel Murphy, relievers LaTroy Hawkins and Scott Rice and starting pitcher Dillon Gee. And the Mets needed each one to repel the Nationals.
Murphy finished with two hits and scored twice in his team-leading 132nd game. In the eighth, he scored from second on an infield single by Andrew Brown, and it turned out to be the winning run.
Rice, a 31-year-old rookie, ended his major league-leading 71st appearance by retiring dangerous Bryce Harper to bail out the Mets in the eighth. Hawkins, still throwing hard at age 40, nailed down his sixth save in the absence of closer Bobby Parnell.
All of it came in support of Gee, perhaps the unlikeliest of the four players who have yet to miss a day of work.
Gee missed most of last season because of a blood clot in his right shoulder that required surgery. This season, he is the only member of the original rotation to have endured.
"I do take pride in that because that's what you set out to do at the beginning of the year," said Gee, who held the Nationals to two runs in 72/3 innings.
Though he allowed solo homers to Wilson Ramos and Steve Lombardozzi, Gee avoided trouble by inducing 14 groundouts. He lowered his second-half ERA to 2.25 and upped his record to 10-9, giving him the most wins on the staff.
Almost everything went Gee's way, including a lighthearted moment in the seventh when he feigned an injury to hide the fact that he had lost track of the count.
Gee reacted as if he had struck out Ian Desmond, who had only two strikes. Worried that it would appear as if he were showing up an opponent, Gee flexed his arm as if he felt discomfort, prompting Collins and trainer Ray Ramirez to race out for a false alarm.
"I felt like an idiot out there," said Gee, who wound up finishing the at-bat with a strikeout.
That's the kind of charmed night it was for the Mets, who could use a few.
Ike Davis gave the Mets a 2-1 lead in the fourth, drilling an opposite-field two-run homer off Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann. It was Davis' ninth homer of the season and only the first to give the Mets a lead.
The Mets made it 3-1 in the eighth when Murphy hustled home from second on Brown's slow roller to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
The Nats clawed back in the eighth. Lombardozzi's pinch-hit homer made it 3-2 and Gee surrendered back-to-back hits before departing. The mess fell to lefty specialist Rice, who fell behind Harper 3-and-0 before inducing a harmless groundout.
"I always prepare myself to go out there and answer the bell," Rice said. "That's why I love situations like tonight."
Notes & quotes: Ruben Tejada, 23, who has fallen out of favor, likely will see plenty of action at shortstop once rosters expand tomorrow . . . David Wright (hamstring strain) could play a game with Class A Port St. Lucie early next week . . . Nationals manager Davey Johnson, 70, left the game in the fourth after feeling lightheaded.